Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Reds regain composure for FA Cup victory

AP , LONDON

Luton's Paul Underwood, right, battles for the ball with Liverpool's Harry Kewell during their FA Cup match at Kenilworth Road Stadium in Luton, England, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Liverpool hit back from 3-1 down to beat Luton 5-3 on Saturday and turn what looked like being one of the FA Cup's biggest upsets into one of its most memorable comeback victories.

Xabi Alonso scored two amazing long-range goals and substitute Florent Sinama Pongolle added two more as the European champion launched a fightback to match its Champions League final against AC Milan in May.

In Istanbul, Liverpool came from 3-0 down to beat the Italians on penalties. This time, Liverpool scored three times in 12 minutes and Alonso finished the game with a 60m shot into an empty net after the Luton goalkeeper had been caught upfield attacking the other goal.

It was one of the most thrilling games in the history of soccer's oldest cup competition.

"At 3-1 down things were pretty tough but we've had another comeback," Alonso said. "We'd prefer to do the job from the beginning but we're still glad to get through."

After Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had given his team an early lead with a trademark swerving strike from 25m, League Championship Luton romped into a 3-1 lead through Steve Howard, Steve Robinson and Kevin Nicholls' penalty.

"Credit to Luton, they stopped us from playing and upset us. They were fantastic," Gerrard said. "It was probably one of the hardest games we've played all season.

"We've not got the best of records against Championship sides in the cup and we got knocked out by Crystal Palace this season [in the League Cup]. It was a great cup tie for the neutral [supporter] but we're not happy with the way we've played."

On a dramatic day of cup games, non-league Nuneaton Borough scored a last-minute penalty to earn a 1-1 draw with Premier League Middlesbrough while Chelsea needed a late goal by Eidur Gudjohnsen to subdue League Two Huddersfield 2-1.

Everton equalized through Leon Osman to draw 1-1 with lowly League Championship Millwall while Torquay, next-to-last in League Two, held Birmingham City 0-0.

Defending champion Arsenal was among top flight teams to make it easily into the fourth round as Robert Pires' two early goals gave the Gunners a 2-1 victory over League Championship side Cardiff.

Although Cameron Jerome scored for the Welsh team three minutes from the end, there seemed no real danger to the Premier League team.

Middlesbrough appeared to be coasting into the fourth round when Spanish midfielder Gaizka Mendieta scored after 15 minutes at Nuneaton's Manor Park ground.

But a handball by former England defender Gareth Southgate gave Nuneaton a chance of a reply and Gez Murphy scored from the spot.

"It has just been magnificent -- a magnificent performance and a magnificent day," said Nuneaton manager Roger Ashby. "It feels like we won the game to be honest and the supporters who are here will remember this for the rest of their lives."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho rested an entire lineup but there appeared to be no problems for his backup team when Carlton Cole put the Blues ahead against Huddersfield.

The League Two club hit back with an equalizer through Gary Taylor-Fletcher in the 75th to threaten an upset. Gudjohnsen hit the winner with eight minutes to go.

All 20 of the top-flight teams managed to avoid each other in the draw and that opened up the chances of upsets. The biggest of all would be if non-league Burton Albion beats record 11-time FA Cup winner Manchester United today.

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